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Iron Imbalance Linked to Parkinson's

Iron is a very tricky element. It's a catalyst in the formation of hydroxyl free radicals, the most dangerous and potent free radicals in the body because they attack cell membranes, fats, proteins and DNA. Generally, most men have a problem with too much iron and women often don't have enough.

A new study also links such imbalances to Parkinson's disease, and folks the results aren't good.

Mice were fed varying amounts of iron to determine levels that precipitated the onset or hastened the progression of Parkinson's-like symptoms such as tremors and balance problems, both in healthy rodents and where risk factors existed.

High levels of iron caused Parkinson's-like symptoms even in healthy mice without apparent risk factors for the illness, while accelerating the decline and death of those already diagnosed with the disease.

Low levels of iron delayed onset of Parkinson's in mice with risk factors and slowed progress of the disease in those already infected. But the news still isn't good. Iron deficiencies in healthy risk-free rodents led to decreasing levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter critical to relaying brain messages that control both balance and movement. Dopamine levels fall as the brain cells or "neurons" responsible for transporting it begin to "commit suicide" at higher-than normal-rates, triggering the chain of events that eventually precipitates the onset of Parkinson's disease.

If iron has been a problem for you either way, measuring your iron levels on a regular basis is a very effective way of maintaining your health. The best way to do this is through a measure of serum ferritin level in conjunction with total iron binding level. If your levels are too high -- above 150 -- one way of treating elevated iron levels is by taking a simple extract from rice bran called phytic acid (IP6). Not only is this an inexpensive solution, but also it doesn't require any prescription.

For more information, review an article I wrote about two years ago about how to diagnose iron overload.

EurekAlert October 12, 2004

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